The Bunning legacy

THE BUNNING LEGACY…. In a more healthy political environment, it’s the kind of bill that would have passed easily. The Kerry-Murray amendment came to the Senate floor yesterday, and would have extended stimulus money to finance a summer jobs program for young people and subsidies for vulnerable families with children via the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The proposal wasn’t especially expensive in U.S. budgetary terms, and it would have created a lot of jobs. When the debate had run its course, the measure had 55 supporters and 45 opponents. Because our Senate is ridiculous, that means the bill died.

Just a week after Senate Republican Jim Bunning’s infamous obstruction of an unemployment benefits extension, the GOP is taking another stand that pits deficit reduction against aid to the poor and jobless.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans — along with some Democrats — defeated a measure to provide $1.3 billion for summer jobs for young people this year and a $1.3 billion extension of enhanced subsidies for poor families with children.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who introduced the amendment along with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), pleaded with her colleagues not to object.

“I have personally heard the stories of these young men and women whose summer jobs changed their lives across the country,” she said. “This amendment will provide $1.3 billion to create up to 500,000 temporary jobs this coming summer. It will invest in critical employment and learning programs that will help not only these young people but the businesses who hire them.”

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) became the ringleader of the opposition, insisting that deficit considerations were more important than job creation and stimulative aid to low-income families.

Murray reminded her colleagues that her amendment carried a one-year deficit, but was fully paid for over a 10-year period. It didn’t matter — all 41 Senate Republicans voted to kill the measure, and four Democrats joined them.

This should have been a no-brainer. A $2.6 billion package that would have directly created hundreds of thousands of jobs? And it failed because the Senate doesn’t operate on majority rule?

One of the keys to national progress is policymakers mustering the political will to address public needs. The Senate seems intent on making this impossible.